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Genesis 32:22-31                                             


Two Dreaded Meetings -Jacob expects one meeting but actually has two. The first encounter is with a dreaded stranger in the night (32:22-32) and only then is he confronted by Esau (33:1-17). How are these two meetings connected?

A Strange Encounter - This first encounter is one of the most interpreted texts in the patriarchal materials. [1]  The story is shrouded in ambiguity and mystery. We are left with an unnamed adversary, who possesses divine qualities.

Possibilities - Lack of clarity keeps the dread and mystery foremost in our minds. We do not know the name or see the face of Jacob’s antagonist. Is the hidden one Yahweh? Jacob prepares to deal with his brother whom he wants to appease, but first must face God to whom he has made petition (32:9-12). [2]

The Wrestling - Again, the conflict is ambiguous: it lasts all night, is evenly matched, and ends at dawn when the stranger want to leave.

What kind of God is it who will be pressed to a draw by this man? And what kind of man is our father Jacob that he can force a draw, even against heaven? This is no ordinary man. And certainly no ordinary God! Clearly, this is no ordinary story. [3]

Recall a dreaded meeting that you’ve had to face . . . a parent/teacher meeting when you were a struggling 3rd grader? A meeting with the academic dean? A meeting with the attending physician of your loved one? Angry boss? A meeting with your ex-? Inlaw? A court hearing? Hostile sibling?

Why do you think God chose to wrestle with Jacob?

Why do you think God "hamstrung" Jacob? A reminder of God’s power? To humble Jacob? A reminder of God’s faithfulness? Pain and woundedness as a way make us dependent on God?


Re-tell the story and freeze the action at specific "learning" stops in the story - especially where you yourself have made a discovery.

You might recall a struggle that you have personally experienced with and shift to other examples of wrestlings with God.

Recall some of the famous persons in church history who have had a dark night of the soul and later emerged from that wrestling match, a very different person.


The tenderness of their reunion [Jacob and Esau] can only be called a miracle, a miracle resulting in part from Jacob’s intense struggle with God the previous night. Seeing God does change us, even when we struggle through the encounter. [4]

[1] Such a view Walter Brueggemann holds in Interpretation Series: Genesis (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1982), page 266.
[2] Ibid., page 267.
[3] Ibid, page 267.
[4] The Spiritual Formation Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Corp., 1999), page 44.